Monday, March 05, 2007

More on Education

Steve Jobs of Apple has really brought Apple out of a downward spin. It's now probably the best consumer computer on the market. The iPod has taken the world by storm, and changed how we listen to music, audiobooks, and even Radio Talk Shows. Jobs rules Apple with an iron fist, and probably necessarily so. He did a great job with Pixar, and I'm hoping he'll round out his career redoing Disney ("Pixney, maybe?). Jobs also has some strong opinions, and he recently blasted teachers and teacher unions at a speech in Austin, Texas. Michael Dell was also part of the event, but didn't pull-the-trigger like Jobs did.

The sad fact is; The teachers aren't the problem. Neither is the teacher unions, the textbooks, the kids, or the parents. The whole system isn't really even broken. It's simply out of date. We're teaching students based on a 1950's model. Back then, High School was, mostly likely, the last education most people would get. College was for a select few. Trade school - or in my day, Vocational school- was an option many would take toward and income producing skill. The military was about the only other option.

The world is different now, and schools haven't changed much. The worse part is that the more than 50% of students are in the worst learning environment possible for them -the classroom. If they were like me, learning is a classroom was useless. The super-campus high schools are a problem too, as are the materials students are forced to use.

Jobs is right about one thing; it's got to change, and change fast! I'm sure I've said if before, but I think it bears writing about again - my thoughts on who education will change, and what it will look like in the future:
  1. No more K-12. No more freshman, sophmore, junior, senior terms will apply to academics. They will probably still apply to the team sports, but that will change also. Each student will progress through subjects at their own pace. They may be at a 9th grade level in one subject, but college level in another. Students will be allow to progress in learning at their own pace.
  2. No more 'pass-fail'. The pass-fail system was based on a classroom environment, where everyone had to learn at the pace the teacher taught. With the advent of individual progress, the pass-fail system won't be necessary. Students will keep working on material till they learn it. They'll pick up some subject quickly, while others subject will take longer. They will keep on the material till the know it. They will receive a completion credit/certification when they are done.
  3. Materials a-plenty. Textbooks will eventually be out the door. Those textbook companies have had a monopoly on education long enough. Both teachers and students will be able to select the materials and content that will help them best. And, students won't have to rely on one teacher for lectures. They'll be able to access many lectures, video, audio, or software base learning.
  4. Classrooms will be collaborative, just like the movement in todays workspaces. Collaborative workspaces will also be collaborative classrooms. Students will learn together, especially on specific subjects. And, students from previous collaborations can help the future teams. Cheating will be a thing of the past. It simply won't be necessary anymore.
While Steve Jobs means well for education, he's simply wrong. No one in particular is to blame. Nor is any specific group. But, it will take a brave jump to move to this model of education.

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